On Sunday I went to the Olympic Park. I had already read a lot about food and drink at the Olympics. Of course the top food and drink sponsors are Coca Cola, Cadbury and McDonald’s, leading the Children’s Food Campaign to brand it the “Obesity Games”. I quite like this infographic they released.
Before the Games there was a lot of information and misinformation about food at the Games. I knew that Sustain had been working with the organisers on the 2012 Food Vision – among other things, this means that all fish served at the Games is sustainable. Meat only has to meet the minimum Red Tractor standard though. There’s also a good article in the latest Jellied Eel.
Then there were the reports that McDonalds had banned chips at the Olympics and that it was a fries-only zone. They then relented and allowed fish to be served with chips.
I was also alarmed to read on the Tapwater website that Coca-Cola had banned drinking water from the Olympics. I thought this was strange as in the email I received before my chosen event (women’s 3m synchronised springboard final) it said I could take in an empty plastic water bottle to refill at the Games (even more strange that Tapwater moderated my comment pointing this out). I only have a stainless steel bottle from Tapwater, but I thought I’d risk it.
I’m happy to say the Army guys on security were sensible about the water bottle (they have metal canteens themselves, don’t they?) and just checked to make sure it was empty. Once I got inside, a refilling point was easy to find.
Walking around the Olympic Park in search of food, I was so impressed by the wildflower plantings everywhere. The park is actually really beautiful.
Green wall on the stadium
I really thought the food would be wall-to-wall McDonalds, with some pies and fish and chips thrown in. I wanted to see if it was possible to eat healthily at the Olympics and avoid McDonalds, Coca Cola and Cadbury!
Let’s see… World’s Largest McDonalds
Check. I walked on for five minutes or so, and then thought I must have gone in a circle because there in front of me was another one, exactly the same! With queues out the door.
However there were also plenty of other food concessions:
The salad didn’t look too healthy to be honest – dressing and a “crunchy topping”. I didn’t check whether the calorie counts were listed.
“World food” options in World Square.
I would have liked a burrito but the queue was immense. So I chose salt fish (MSC Haddock) and ackee instead. At my local Caribbean place, I get it with rice, but this time it came with these deep fried dumpling things – so much for trying to choose the healthy option!
After wandering around and eventually finding a fork to eat it with, I tried to find a seat at one of the picnic tables under a Coca Cola umbrella, but ended up on a park bench as there was no space in the seating area.
Salt fish and ackee, with a side of fat.
No sooner had I sat down, than lightning lit up the sky and the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard rumbled away. And then the heavens opened.
Holding umbrella with one hand, trying to eat with the other, and getting drenched down my back.
Dry people eating their lunch.
For a drier and fancier (though not much fancier) option, there was a Seafood and Champagne brasserie. Prices started at £29 for two courses – no thank you! Produce was British but out of season – purple sprouting broccoli in July?
Despite the on and off rain, there was a real party atmosphere in the park. Witness these people playing Twister:
It was hugely exciting just to be there – it seemed such a long way off and now it was finally here. I worked at the Torch Relay on Thursday at a community breakfast, there wasn’t a sponsor in sight and it melted my cynicism right away. The Opening Ceremony did us all proud. And then I was there, at the park, at the Actual Olympics!
As for the food, I think next time I would take a picnic. And maybe buy some No.1 Fruit Cup to drink with it:
(Cynicism returns: Pimm’s, not being a sponsor of the Games, is not allowed to be called by its real name).